Introduction to Object ID
  Project Team
  Part 1
  Part 2

Why Object ID is Needed

The illicit trade in art, antiques, and other cultural objects now constitutes one of the most prevalent categories of international crime. Law-enforcement agencies, in particular, have long recognized that documentation is crucial to the protection of cultural objects, for law-enforcement officials can rarely recover and return objects that have not been photographed and adequately described. Unfortunately, very few objects have been documented to a level that can materially assist in their recovery in the event of theft. Even for objects that have been so documented, the information collected is extremely variable. It is important, therefore, that efforts be made to increase public awareness of the need to make adequate, standardized descriptions of objects. More and better documentation will not only assist crime detection and the recovery of stolen objects, but also have considerable value as a crime-prevention strategy.

It is one thing to encourage the compilation of descriptions of objects as a security measure, but quite another to develop effective means of circulating this documentation to organizations that can assist in the recovery of the objects if they are stolen. Ideally, the information that can identify a stolen or illegally exported object should be able to travel at least as fast as the object itself. This will mean that the information may have to cross national borders and circulate among a number of organizations. The development of electronic networks makes this effort technically possible. But digital information and computer networks to transmit information will solve only part of the problem. Also needed are the standards that will make it possible to exchange information in a form that is intelligible to both systems and people. Object ID meets the second of these requirements by providing a documentation standard for the information needed to identify objects.

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